Lifespan Religious Exploration News

Dedicated to educating our fellow members and greater community about how to help our Earth be healthier by living greener and healthier lives.

Oct 2017

Are You Drowning in the Wake?

“Wade in the water
Wade in the water, children
God’s gonna trouble the water…”

— Fisk Jubilee Singers

Unitarian Universalists are accustomed to dealing with the enduring issues of racism, poverty, discrimination, oppression, and war. We have a clear answer on how to deal with these issues through the practice of our UU Principles. But what about when other bad things happen? Things like devastating floods, hurricanes, fires, and mass shootings are harder to grasp because we feel powerless in their wake.

Many in our society focus on the why of suffering. Some believe in Providence – the idea that a higher power sustains us and influences each of our destinies. Others follow the way of the Buddha, believing that to live is to suffer. While still others believe that suffering is a result of evil.

As Unitarian Universalists we do not share in a single theology of pain, evil, or suffering. Instead our religion’s liberal optimism creates a focus on the alleviation of suffering rather than understanding of its cause.

There is little or nothing we can do to prevent these large scale disasters. Sure, gun laws need to be changed and climate change needs to be addressed, but for the most part, we are left to deal with the wake of the storms, i.e. the suffering of others.

Are you drowning in the wake of the suffering of the world, disturbed by the sheer depth of the waters; consumed with waves of grief and sadness, and don’t know what, or even if, you can do anything about it?

As children, growing up in Tennessee, my sisters and I often swam in the nearby lake. I remember that one of the games we played involved pushing each other down into the water. The goal was to fight your way back up to the surface. It is a good description of how I have been feeling lately, as if I am constantly struggling to prevent the current (which is pain, suffering and grief) from dragging me down and keeping me under. What keeps me above the surface? It is hope and the belief in human compassion.

Human compassion leads us to action. We may not be able to go fight fires, or rescue people from floods, hurricanes, and shootings, but there are still things we can do right here at home. Edward Everett Hale put it this way: “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”

Here are some things you can do:

Donate Blood: Even if it does not help the far away victims, it is helping someone in need right here in our own community. The Red Cross has an online registration process.

Give to the UUA Disaster Relief Fund: In addition to supporting victims of hurricanes and floods, the Disaster Relief Fund supports congregations affected by the fires in California.

• You can help fire victims by donating food, blood, clothing, money, and shelter:

• You can also keep marching peacefully for change, writing to your government officials, and standing up for your beliefs, and yes, prayers also help; they give us hope.

How to keep from drowning in despair:

Limit exposure to media coverage. For children, and adults, exposure to repeated images can be confusing, disturbing, and re-traumatizing. This includes not only television news reports, but social media, as well.

Talk to others about how you are feeling and listen to them, as well. Remember to listen carefully to children when they ask questions. Be sure to first understand what is leading to their questions. Be reassuring and honest, while striving to meet children at their level. Encourage them to ask questions and share feelings.

Stay connected to your faith community. Next to our basic human needs of food, water, and shelter, the thing we most desire is connection. Our church is a place where we can come together to share not only our sadness and grief, but also our hope and compassion. It can be helpful and comforting for children to see the adults they love supported and cared for, as well.

Seek professional help when needed. If you or a child in your family seems to be having a difficult time coping and feels a sense of hopelessness, seek help from a mental health professional. It is perfectly normal - for children or adults - to need help in dealing with disasters that are happening so often and on such large scales.

Wayne B. Arnason says: “Take courage. For deep down, there is another truth: you are not alone.” As RE Director here at UUSM I am deeply committed to the happiness and wellbeing of each and every one of you. Please know that I am always available for any of you if you need to talk.

Kathleen Hogue





The UU Common Read: “The Third Reconstruction”

Lifespan Religious Education Adult Programs presents the 2016-2017 UU Common Read, The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement, by the Rev. William Barber II and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. Copies of the book (168 pp) are available for sale at the Lifespan R.E. table.

Each year the Unitarian Universalist Association chooses a “common read.” All Unitarian Universalists are encouraged to read this book, and the UUA provides reading guides and context for congregational consideration.

Rev. Barber’s speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention brought him to national attention. That same year, he addressed a general session at the UUA General Assembly in the morning, conducted a workshop in the afternoon, and, in the evening, spoke at the GA State of Emergence Public Witness Rally. Videos of some of these speeches are available on the UUA website.

Rev. Barber is pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church, of the Disciples of Christ, in Greensboro, NC. He served for over ten years as president of the North Carolina branch of the NAACP, until this year when he stepped down to focus on his nonprofit organization, Repairers of the Breach, Inc., and to lead a renewal of the Poor People’s Campaign. Repairers is a nonpartisan and ecumenical organization focused on a progressive agenda rooted in a moral framework, bringing together clergy and laity from different faith traditions with “nones” who are guided by the same moral principles. The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival Mass Meetings, is co-led by local grassroots organizations to address issues of systemic racism, poverty, militarism, and ecological devastation in the states. On September 19th, several of us had the opportunity to visit McCarty Memorial Christian Church in Los Angeles to attend Rev. Barber’s inspiring Poor People’s Campaign meeting, which was co-sponsored by CLUE and other local groups. A video of this speech, as well as those given across the country, is accessible at

In North Carolina, Rev. Barber built a “state-wide interracial fusion political coalition” of civil rights groups, immigrant rights activists, unions, and LGBT+ advocates, groups with sometimes conflicting interests and values. What they had in common was a desire to resist state-sanctioned discrimination, whether it be against workers, people of color, women, poor people, or queer folks. Accordingly, in the summer of 2013, Rev. Barber led this fusion coalition in Moral Monday rallies at the North Carolina statehouse to protest redistricting and voting rights restrictions, as well as attacks against social programs protecting these groups. The Moral Monday movement contributed to the supplanting of the Republican incumbent with a Democratic governor, and supported litigation that successfully challenged, up to the U.S. Supreme Court, voter access restrictions.

The Third Reconstruction serves both as a memoir and as a detailed, pragmatic guide to building and sustaining a social justice movement. From the UUA website: “Drawing on the prophetic traditions of the Jewish and Christian scriptures, while making room for other sources of truth, the book challenges us to ground our justice work in moral dissent, even when there is no reasonable expectation of political success, and to do the hard work of coalition building in a society that is fractured and polarized.”

Please join us on Sunday, December 3 from 1 to 3 pm in Forbes Hall, Room 4, to discuss the 2016-2017 Common Read, The Third Reconstruction, and consider how Rev. Barber’s book may apply to UUSM’s own justice work. Portions of the GA speeches will be viewed during the class.

Audrey Lyness

A truly moral agenda must be anti-racist, anti-poverty, pro-justice, pro-labor, transformative and deeply rooted and built within a fusion coalition. It would ask of all policy, is this policy Constitutionally consistent, morally defensible and economically sane. We call this moral analysis and moral articulation which leads to moral activism.” —The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II

Adult RE Offerings for November 2017

Continuing Group: “An Enjoyable Dive into Who and What We Are” 
This on-going, twice-monthly class is presented to help participants master specific meditation skills. We endeavor to answer the questions Who am I? (attitudes and beliefs) and What am I? (essence or true nature). This class will include meditations which explore participants’ spiritual goals. The group meetings (1st and 3rd Sundays) will also focus on insights gained throughout the month. It is expected that participants have a regular meditation practice. 

NEW TIME AND LOCATION SUNDAYS, November 5 and 19 Location: Patio Area Time: 9:30 to 10:45 am Facilitator: Bill Blake 

New Ongoing Group: “Open Meditation” 
You are cordially invited to a new meditation group called “Open Meditation.” Whether you are a beginner who is just curious about meditation, or whether you have been meditating for many years – you are welcome. Meditation at its root is a natural and deeply human practice. We are not teaching a particular form of meditation or doctrine. You don’t need to know anything, do any particular activity, or believe in anything. We will have brief readings, two 20-minute periods of sitting, a walking meditation, and time for journaling and sharing. You can drop in when it serves you, or come regularly. If you are late, just come in quietly and join us. If you have questions, speak with either Beverly Shoenberger or Carol Ring at coffee hour, or contact Bev.

Friday, November 17 Location: Forbes Hall Time: 7 to 8:30 pm Facilitators: Beverly Shoenberger and Carol Ring